Current legislation means that VAT, at 5%, is added to essential women’s sanitary products. The SNP was the only party in 2015 general election campaign to pledge in its manifesto to abolish VAT on women’s sanitary products, also known as the ‘tampon tax’.
Alison Thewliss first moved amendments to the UK Government’s budget in September, which sought to abolish the tax on ladies’ sanitary products. However, the Government asked for time to negotiate with the European Commission on EU VAT rules.
In November 2015, as part of the Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne announced the establishment of a £15 million fund which would be open to bids for women’s welfare groups. The £15 million fund would return to women’s welfare groups the revenue generated from the tampon tax.
On 26th November, the day after the Autumn Statement, Thewliss wrote to the Chancellor and welcomed the establishment of the fund but asked how groups would be able to apply for the funding. It took the Government until 4th February 2016 to reply – some 76 days. Applications for the fund closed on 22 February 2016.
The Glasgow MP has now uncovered tracking changes on the UK Government’s website, which only informed groups how they could respond 16 days before applications closed – some 69 days after the Chancellor announced the establishment of the fund.
Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:
“The fact that it took the Chancellor almost 80 days to respond to a genuine enquiry from a Member of Parliament is shocking and shows gross disrespect to Parliament.
“None the less, when I received information from the Treasury, I passed it on to women’s welfare groups and encouraged them to apply for the funding. I was gobsmacked last week when we found out that there was such a quick closing date for applications to the fund, despite it taking 69 days for the Government to bother publishing information as to how groups could actually apply. This is simply not good enough.
“I’ve written to the Treasury demanding to know the exact chronology of events on this. Serious questions need to be asked, such as who was responsible for advertising this funding, what happened between 25 November and 2 February and whether the Government proactively advertised this fund to groups other than a small article hidden away on the gov.uk website
“It is clear that a number of charities might well have lost out on this opportunity for funding, which is totally unfair. I am therefore calling upon the Government to urgently re-open the application process and properly raise awareness about the tampon tax fund.”